The End of Microsoft is Nigh

July 11, 2007

Yeah, yeah, I hear you all say. I didn’t think it was really possible either. But now I’m starting to believe it is, and it will be soon. Here are the barriers I see to the end of Microsoft, that is, what we really need as end users to make the change:

  • A new, intuitive interface (that means, we don’t have to relearn what we already know, or learn what we don’t. Harder that you’d imagine, but not impossible.
  • A stable operating system. It must not crash (too) often. A crash now and then is really inevitable. Or is it?
  • Free software, or at the very least, affordable to everyone. And I mean very cheap, not US$800 for a a single piece of software. I’m thinking more like $10, which is still outrageous to many people!
  • Office productivity tools that are at least as easy-to-use and useful as Microsoft Office products.
  • Games and audio software that runs even better on these new platforms.
  • Cheap hardware. Well, we really do have this now. The machines we’re using now are more sophisticated and faster than anything I could have imagined when I started in this IT game. Yes, it was a bloody long time ago!

These are just a few of requirements that I’ve been pondering of late. If I gave it more than a few minutes thought, I could come up with a very long, and detailed list, but I’ll leave it at the main ones for now.

So, why has Microsoft kept such a choke-hold on the desktops of the enterprise and the home? We all know this, so I won’t bore you with the bundling strategies they got the hardware vendors to sign up to, and I won’t bore you with the law suits that stifled creativity, and the big boys throwing sand in the eyes of the little school starters in the playground. It’s so Web 1.0.

Web 1.0. I know that doesn’t even exist, but then nor does Web 2.0. It’s just a marketing slogan, like the Information Superhighway (I hated that with a passion). Web 2.0 is just a bunch of clever widgets created with Dynamic HTML (DHMTL), which is essentially Javascript controlling Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Write a few of these widgets, reuse them in other applications, and you’ve got this fancy-pants new user interface that wasn’t able to be done before the current-day web browsers. We’ve all been waiting for this forever, and now all the ducks are in a row, and we can start shooting them down with our widget guns.

Back to my point.

Now our web-based interfaces are becoming more useable, we’ve started on our way to the end of Microsoft as the platform of choice.

Open source really is the future of software. Sure, the business model still needs some working on, but the idea of free software, and users paying for support really rocks my world. It blows my hair back better than my turbo-powered hair dryer.

The Linux operating system, in all its many fine flavours, is really starting to make me a happy lass. The interfaces are improving. The development and support models are improving, with some big players getting involved and offering real enterprise-level offerings. If the user interface improves to the point that any old Microsoft user can make it do what they want, without too much frustration, I think we have a winner.

As for office productivity, Open Office goes a long way to this. Really, it does. I rarely use MSOffice anymore, and rely solely on OO. If you haven’t tried it before, or haven’t even heard of it, go download it now and give it a go. Did I mention it’s free? Oh goodness, free? Really? How do they do it?

So what’s the point to this ramble? I’m looking forward to the next 5-6 years in the open source development world. I think things will really change. If a group of developers get together and really, really think about the interface, then we will all win. Steve Jobs showed us what a great interface is oh so many years ago, but I think even Apple have lost the path lately. I love love love Apple, but I still think their UI could be better. I think everybody’s UI should be better.

I think it’s time I took a job in interface design. I could save the world.

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Myspace Vs Facebook

July 6, 2007

I’ve been doing a fair bit of playing with Facebook lately. It seems pretty good. A nice Web 2.0 application, which shits all over the myspace UI design. Okay, you can’t customize style sheets, but personally, I’m more than happy with that. The number of disgusting myspace pages out there absolutely offends my sense of UI design. People who use the CSS to make their pages unreadable should not be allowed accounts. In my opinion, that level of customization shouldn’t be allowed by people who have no idea of how CSS works, and good design knowledge. So that’s where Facebook really kicks butt. No user CSS customization. At least within the UI. You can, however, add a (real) user style sheet to Facebook. There are a number of predesigned Firefox extensions that let you do this, and that’s how user CSS should be used in my opinion. Let me decide how to format and colour your page. Don’t make me see your appalling attempt at it. It’ll just make me think you’re an idiot.

I also love the drag and click model of the UI widgets. Why has myspace been so slow in adopting this, when Facebook does it so easily?

I think there are some very childish and useless widgets on Facebook though. That bloody Zombie widget that’s taking over at the moment, and the number of different Wall widgets seems a bit silly. Perhaps the Facebook team could spend a bit more time vetting what’s made available. Perhaps even commission the good ones, and dump the dodgy ones. I also like the model of making a few dollars by writing a decent widget that costs pennies to the user, but can reap huge rewards for the developer. I’m considering writing one myself to practice my Web2.0 and PHP skills. I’m about to go read the developer doc and see how it all works. Might be a fun little project. Perhaps a customizable style sheet? Argh!

So far I’ve managed to intergrate my flickr site with Facebook, and I’m about to figure out how I can link in my blogs other than just using links. If you know, please feel free to post a comment and let me know. Any other Facebook hints would be handy too.